Bears unveil plans for new domed lakefront stadium. Illinois leaders remain skeptical

CHICAGO — First, the Bears showed the renderings. Then came their financial request.

The team is putting more than $2 billion on the table, plus $300 million from an NFL fund to build stadiums, but more money is needed.

The Bears want $900 million from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, 28% of the proposal.

“This is going to reinvigorate the entire city of Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “It will be the crown jewel of the city of Chicago.”

Bears unveil new lakefront stadium plans at Soldier Field, a day before crucial NFL Draft

The bonding request is complicated. In addition to roughly $1 billion, the Bears want to refinance $629 million in debt from Soldier Field renovations 20 years ago using the city’s hotel tax. New bonds would extend for 40 years.

Additionally, to make the stadium a reality, the Bears are proposing three phases of infrastructure and museum campus improvement. To get shovels in the ground, they’re requesting $325 million from the state or federal government now, then $510 million in Phase 2, and $665 million in Phase 3.

“We need more cranes in the sky here, and that’s why I want us to get beyond picking on what’s wrong with this project and instead of saying what’s right with it,” Bears president Kevin Warren said.

“What I’ve said from the very beginning is that an investment like this requires real skin in the game from ownership, which they’ve done that,” Johnson added. “A commitment to public use – they’ve done that. As well as an overall committee to building a better, stronger, safer Chicago.”

Gallery: Chicago Bears’ proposed domed lakefront stadium

Springfield leaders say they’re skeptical.

Governor JB Pritzker says he was not invited to Wednesday’s Bears event.

“Look, I’m a Bears fan. I want to be clear: I want them to win and have a great place to play, but I just think that taxpayer dollars need to be protected,” Pritzker said.

The governor notes that under the Bears’ plan, they would take all of the hotel tax revenue for their stadium despite the White Sox and Red Stars seeking new homes, too.

“I’m going to say to you publicly what I said to Kevin Warren privately last week: If we were to put this issue on the board for a vote right now, it would fail, and it would fail miserably. There’s no environment for something like this today,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch.

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Railing against taxpayer subsidies is former Governor Pat Quinn, who wants to take the matter to the voters.

“Give us a chance to vote at the ballot box on whether or not this proposed stadium for the Bears, this billion-dollar-boondoggle, should be allowed to happen,” he said.

The Bears insist their plan will create 43,000 construction jobs and have an economic impact of $8 billion. But for a franchise worth $6 billion, many want the team to fund this themselves.

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